On Sunday we went to the Port Lympne. We’ve visited it a couple of times before, and as I wrote about in a post from our last visit, it’s not ‘just’ the amazing animals there that make it a wonderful place to visit, but also the impressive gardens around the manor house (which serves as hotel & restaurant), the dinosaur forest, the safari tour, and the surroundings. It’s a great place for Penguin and us to roam around, and he also likes to have a look in the shops (one at the entrance, plus a dino-themed one by the dinosaur forest), and there are playgrounds and a maze to enjoy too.
On this latest visit of ours, it was the wonders of water that brought the most enjoyment for Penguin. Watching water is something that he’s always liked to do, and it’s something that is relaxing for most of us. For a person with autism, who doesn’t filter out sensory input in the way that most people do, focusing (maybe I should even say hyper-focusing) on something like moving water can be a way to screen out the surroundings. Other things can fill a similar function, screens (tablet, phone, tv etc.) for example. Penguin had seemed a little bit tired before we set off from home on Sunday, probably due to the beginnings of a cold. So he wasn’t quite as energetic as on most days, and with so much to take in at the park, the water features offered a welcome relief as well as sensory joy.
A fascination with water is quite common amongst autistics, and along with this follows worrying statistics about drownings. So never ever leave your child unattended by water, and don’t let your phone or other distractions take your attention away. Drowning is quick and quiet. This of course applies to neurotypical children as well, even if the risks increase in combination with autism. More information on these dangers can be found in this post by Spirit of Autism LLC.
On this February visit, the weather was mostly sunny and bright, but with a distinct chill in the air. We started off with a look around the shop, before walking past the wolf enclosure on our way to the big steps that lead down to the manor house and gardens.
In front of the house there’s a large square pond with lovely big carp fish in it. There was a heron strutting around on the side of the pond when we arrived, but he quickly made his escape.
The small, well-like pond pictured above is a big favourite of Penguin’s. There’s a trickling stream of water coming down from the half-dome above, and it makes little ripples on the surface as well as reflections on the bottom and surrounding walls.
We did manage to see some animals too! Here’s a giraffe I got a shot of as we went on the safari tour (you can see the edge of our trailer at the bottom of the pic). It was chilly ride on the trailer, and bumpier than I remember it from last time, which was good fun. After the tour, we walked through other parts of the park, including the dino-shop, one of the playgrounds, and the maze, before we ended up back at the water features again.
If it looks as if Penguin might be about to get into the water on the last picture above, that’s about right… He did however stop to take his shoes off, giving us the chance to talk him out of it, which thankfully wasn’t too difficult this time. ☺️
The light was getting low and the temperature was dropping, so we made our way towards the exit, with a couple of laps around another pond on the way.
Although you can’t quite make it out in this picture, we could actually see a hint of France on the horizon across the channel, as we made our way back up those big old steps. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of this view!